Ten things to do on public transport instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media

I consider myself to be a seasoned public transport taker here in Seoul, South Korea. Since moving to Seoul, I’ve noticed that the general Korean population are rather fond of their smartphone screens. This doesn’t just apply to the people on the subway as the title of this post may suggest. It applies to people on the streets, in cafes, restaurants, schools, gyms, and everywhere else humans gravitate. It doesn’t help that two huge conglomerate smartphone companies, Samsung and LG, are highly celebrated by the Korean people.

So, because I never use my phone and am a fully-fledged self-help guru, I’ve taken it upon myself to help everyone out with more ~mindful~ smartphone usage. Firstly, I hate the word mindful and I also disagree with the generation of self help influencers. Secondly, I have been living in Seoul for 1 year now and I, too, have a bit of a screen addiction going on. I was being completely facetious.

Here are some ways that we can better serve our brains on the subway to promote a clear mind and help validate our smartphone addictions.

1. Make a to-do list

Do you have more than two things to do after your commute? Well, that, my friend, is the beginning of a juicy list. Let’s face it, you probably won’t do all of the things on your list but it will motivate you to do the things you actually need to do.

2. Podcasts

Listen to a podcast instead of the music you constantly consume in your ear holes. You can learn something, feel like you’re having a private lecture and be that annoying person who brings up facts all the time for no apparent reason.

3. Read a book

Woah, an actual physical book? Okay, this one is for more advanced subway takers and requires a great level of concentration. I know that not everybody can get their bodies to balance on a moving train and read without getting dizzy, we are humans, not mountain goats. However, if your body can handle all of the extra stimuli, you can assert your dominance as the ‘smart’ one on the subway carriage. I read so many books this year just because of my extremely long commute to work.

4. Write a novel

I can’t offer further advice with this one. It just seems like something a person who wakes up at 4am every day would do as a way to be productive. Give it a try? Your novel can’t suck until you finish it. Then, you can make it better.

5. Start a blog

Did you know that I’m currently writing this blog post on the subway? How could you have known that? What a silly question. If you don’t think you have the time to write a blog or a diary, you’re lying to yourself and to your whole family. They will never forgive you for those lies. I have the same philosophy Re: write a novel. Your blog won’t suck unless you have questionable opinions or zero blog posts.

6. Learn a language

Duolingo is a thing and it’s there to be used, so use it. Otherwise, go back to point two, Podcasts, and combine this with language learning. If, for some reason, you decided to learn Korean like me, Talk to Me in Korean have a great podcast.

7. Do a phone spring clean

Organise your photos, emails, contacts, apps, alarms, calendars, texts, ringtones, Instagram bios etc. I’m a true believer that a clean home equals a clean mind. I also apply this philosophy to the digital living space. Think about how much time you spend on your devices and it may help you understand why it’s important to keep your digital chaos clean and tidy.

8. Unfollow people who don’t align with your future

Go onto your socials and remove all the people who aren’t on board your train to self-improvement and general happiness. This includes people you are only friends with because you feel like you have to be. Delete them all. But, as you cull your friend lists, whisper ‘thank you’ ever so quietly to make it more Marie Kondo and less Georgina from Gossip Girl.

9. Go on a Wikipedia black hole search

This is my favourite thing to do at 4am while on a Netflix binge but there is never a bad time to go on a Wikipedia binge. It will help you learn things like Queen Elizabeth II and her husband are related and other things like how long Nelson Mandella spent in prison. These are all very useful things, do not deny yourself this information. As I am editing this, I am realising that I didn’t draw this point in my hilarious cartoon version of this blog post. I will forever regret this.

10. Respond respond respond

Now, this is the thing that I am worst at in life. I don’t know how many times I have written in my diary ‘ahh I really need to stay on top of my message and email responses’ to no avail. I don’t know what it is but I’m working on it, and the subway is a great place to get it done. As I type, I am vehemently aware of all of my unread messages.

I hope this was more comical than helpful. I really don’t care how you spend your time on your commute. I don’t know what kind of day you’re having. We all need to unwind with YouTube videos to clear our cloudy brains. This is more of a cultural observation combined with a pretty useless solution to something that may not even be perceived as a problem. But, if you’re feeling guilty about your phone usage, just know that the world will continue to be flat and have zero gravitational pull, regardless of how many memes you watch on a continuous loop.

‘Well, that was an unexpected ending? I want to read more of this blog! But HOW?’ Please do, I upload when I feel like it about topics relating to Korean culture. Feel free to leave a comment, I always respond. Have a very Korean day!

The Colours (and smells) of Gwangjang Market, Seoul, South Korea

Yesterday morning, we popped open our umbrellas and hopped through puddles to get to Seoul’s ‘Jewelry City’. Yes, that is a real place in Seoul, and yes, we finally bought wedding rings as a proclamation of our love. We hadn’t planned on it, but Gwangjang Market was located right next to the city of jewels. We had really been wanting to go there for a long time, what a cowinky dink. My husband is particularly keen on street food and was in heaven at the market.

I’m not sure why I thought otherwise, but shopping for wedding rings is so difficult. Why do western men have to shop alone for engagement rings? What a terrible culture. We went to four different sellers, touched a lot of hands and saw a lot of fake diamonds (they don’t put the real diamonds on display for some reason??). Because of this difficult shopping decision, we had to take a time out and feast on street food. We decided to eat some 족발 (Jokbal – pig’s feet), 잡채 (Japchae – sweet potato noodles) and 떡볶이 (Tteokbokki – spicy rice cakes). We then went in for a second sitting and ate 빈대떡 (mung bean pancakes). What’s was even better was the stall seats were heated. You definitely need a warm bottom to consume things like pig’s feet and mung bean pancake.

It was a happy accident that I had my camera in my bag yesterday. I just woke up with that feeling that a good snap was waiting for me, you know? Despite the cold, the rain and the difficult decision making, we ended our day with full bellies, three wedding rings and the realisation that my husband and I have the same ring size! Enjoy some of the pictures I took, but just remember that I was really hangry whilst taking them. Let me know if you’ve been to the market, I’d love to hear about what you ate!

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Hiking Gwanhaksan

Yesterday, I started my day with full mobility of my lower limbs. I ended the day drunk on makgeolli (Korean rice wine), with shaky knees and frozen fingers. This is of course because we ventured to Gwanhak Mountain, located next to Seoul National University. With autumn in full swing, it was so magical to wander through a trail lined with red and yellow trees, crunching on leaves as we hiked 600m above civilisation!

I wanted to bring my fancy camera but, being a novice hiker, I decided to stick to my camera phone. I didn’t need any unnecessary weight holding me down. Hiking is incredibly popular in Korea so we had many buddies along the way. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful temple. Because a lot of high schoolers have their SATs this Thursday, there were prayers and wishes hanging from red lanterns. I wanted to soak in the beauty of it all but the temple was on the edge of a cliff and my hands were turning blue. I was joined on the trail with my husband, two classmates and my lovely Korean teacher (oh, and a lil puppy).

I hope to start hiking more regularly! However, it’s starting to get real chilly and there is no way I’m going up one of these Korean mountains in the winter! There was one very smart businessman selling icecream in the middle of a rather gruelling flight of stairs. By the time we saw his little esky, our sweaty bodies were ready for an icy treat and we (obviously) proceeded to buy them. Little did we know that 30m later, we would reach freezing temperatures and lose our craving for refreshing icecream. Had he sold his popsicles at a higher altitude, he would have had to carry a lot of melted bags of ice down the mountain. A very savvy businessman indeed. Enjoy some pictures! The air was not so great on Sunday so there is a bit of a fog situation! Have a happy week and go to my blog to read more about my life in Seoul, South Korea.

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A textural photo essay

Do you ever just wander the streets of your city and snap away with your camera phone, living like there’s no tomorrow? No? Nor do I? How bizarre. Obviously, I do, this was my cute little way to introduce something I feel weird introducing so I made a weird little joke at my own expense. I do this in real life, too. Don’t worry. I digress. Here is a little snapshot of a collection of all the things I like to snap on a weekly, daily or sometimes hourly basis. These are the kind of photos that don’t really make any sense in a blog post so I’m just going to whack them all together now for you. So, without further ado, I give you my textural photo essay from the past 9 months of my life living in Seoul, South Korea as a pretty amateur smartphone photographer.

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Yeouido Park is a landscape architect’s playground

You know when the stars and zodiac signs align and you have both the energy to leave your house and a pollution-free blue sky? No? Well, you obviously don’t live in Asia. This happened for us only two weekends ago when we ventured over to Yeouido Park near the Han River. We decided to rent a tandem bike and go for a leisurely (sweaty) cycle and then eat (drink from sticky hand) ice cream.

On the way to the bike rental zone, we passed so many strange urban space designs with descriptions in front of each explaining how they cured inner city pressusre disease or something. I didn’t read them because of the aforementioned parenthetical sweat. I felt like I was back doing my landscape architecture elective at uni, by which I mean I had no idea what anybody was talking about but was able to appreciate what was happening nonetheless. Here are some snaps of said spaces! Yeouido is a guaranteed good time! You can also rent basketballs, ripsticks, scooters and other crazy things. Talk about the time of your life! Peace out, reader.

Jo So Ko K-Drama Club – What to watch on Netflix (AU & KR)

So, you’ve heard through the Korean-grapevine that K-Dramas are all the rage. You want to get into some Korean shows or movies but you’re not quite sure where to start? Well, before you get K-razy and lose sleep to your fave Korean characters, let’s quickly discuss the terms and conditions of becoming a K-drama-watcher.

Rule #1

You can’t just “watch” a K-drama every now and then, go away, come back to it; dropping in and out as you please like its your neighbour’s lasagna night. This is less of a rule and more of a warning. K-dramas are so addictive, one simply cannot be half-heartedly committed. If you’ve succeeded otherwise, do share your tips.

Rule #2

The plot points, twists, unrequited relationships, political corruption, murder and every unrealistic aspect of a Korean drama is entirely exaggerated. People who watch K-dramas are very aware of this. If you find that you cannot be apart of the K-drama world, please do not criticise others for indulging in these fairytales. Don’t burst our K-bubbles.

Rule #3

That’s it! Now, let’s talk about where to begin. Also, I’m warning you that each time you see a character eating instant ramen, you too will want to eat instant ramen. Resist. It’s terrible for you.

Strong Woman Bong Soon

힘쎈여자 도봉순

Who is it for? Someone who appreciates a strong female lead even though because it’s a K-drama you know the strong female lead will ultimately be weakened by the love of her life, contradicting any superhuman strength she may have.

Why should I watch it? The characters are beautiful and hilarious with great chemistry. The kidnapping plot is really messed up and gives the lead character’s perfect romance a bit of balance. It can’t always be sunshine and mansions, we need a bit of a sinister hostage situation thrown in the mix to snap us back into the real world.

How long will it take me to watch? It will take over 16 hours to finish this one so buckle in and get your instant ramen ready!

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Stranger

비밀의 숲

Who is it for? Someone who loves waiting for 16 episodes to find out who is behind a string of murders. For those who are truly interested in South Korean government corruption (it’s exciting when it’s “fictitious”).

Why should I watch it? I mean, who am I to tell you what to watch. Figure this one out for yourself. It’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s also highly addictive.

How long will it take me to watch? This one is also about 16 hours long (most K-dramas have 16 episodes). You may want to eat udon and drink soju while you watch? Maybe that’s just me?

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Hello, My Twenties

청춘시대

Who is it for? Anyone who loves Korean culture and is in the age range of 16 – 25. This show is about a group of girls at a Korean university just going through the motions of Korean life but there is a weird supernatural twist thrown in there that never really amounts to anything?? Also, one of the main characters changed at the beginning of Season 2 which is kind of odd.

Why should I watch it? Because you’re still reading this blog post which means you’re obviously trying to find the perfect K-drama to spend your weekend cosying up with.

How long will it take me to watch? This is a rare K-drama that has not 1, but 2 seasons. There are 12 episodes in season 1 and 14 episodes in season 2. At 60-65 minutes per episode, you can do the math on this one…

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My Love from the Star

별에서 온 그대

Who is it for? Hopeless romantics who also have a side interest in extraterrestrial activity on Earth. This is an older drama but it’s one that you have to see if you want to consider yourself a K-drama lover. Not really, nobody cares, just live your life.

Why should I watch it? Okay, I think at this point, I’m a terrible TV reviewer and you should just try these shows for yourself. If you’re at all interested in Korean culture or the Korean language, you should consider watching some of these shows!

How long will it take me to watch? Because it has taken me so long to write and publish this blog post, I don’t think this show is available in Korea anymore on Netflix. It should take you the usual 16, 1-hour episodes amount of time to finish this bad boy.

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Romance is a Bonus Book

로맨스는 별책부록

Who is it for? Book lovers, fashion lovers, Korean culture lovers, romance lovers and cheesy/predictable storylines.

Why should I watch it? For a PLETHORA of reasons, some of which include; because it’s adorable and you’ll feel like the characters are your own friends. While I personally thought this storyline was quite weak, I really loved the characters and the tone of the show. Also, this show has about 17,000 commercials embedded within it that are trying SO hard to look natural and relevant to the plot but they can often break up the flow of the story. I would love to see an edited version of the show that just tells a story without the unnecessary Subway and Samsung ads thrown in the middle.

How long will it take me to watch? Again, 16 episodes at 1 hour each will take you approximately all of your spare time to finish this one.

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Bonus Round: Korean Movies

The Beauty Inside

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Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

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Assassination

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Pasta, Popcorn and Korean Pancakes

I recently wrote about a hip, hop, happnin’ area of Seoul called Sharosugil. In said post, I wrote that while we were there we needed to ‘take mental notes for future date plans so we can come back every single week for the foreseeable future’. Sure enough, we went back exactly one week later for another too-adorable-for-words date. I was in a pizza/pasta or hardcore Korean set meal mood after work. I guess that’s a very vague hunger mood to be in, isn’t it? I was too afraid to rule out any tasty possibilities we may have stumbled upon so I came prepared with back-up hunger cravings.

Wandering down a small street in the university town, we saw this gorgeous little restaurant that we could have almost mistaken for an indoor plant shop and walked right past. When we sat down, we realised that it was, in fact, a risoteria and not a pasta restaurant. Never fear, according to the waitress, the chef can whip you up just about any pasta dish your hunger mood can concoct.  The name of this place is Marcus and you can click the link to find out where it is and what they sell because this Jo So Ko blog isn’t intended to be very informative or useful, it’s a hobby. I must add, the service was amazing and if Korea were a tipping country and I had a job that afforded me the luxury to be able to tip, I would have probably considered tipping them. Enjoy the pictures, the food, the neighbourhood, your life, the vibe etc.

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So, you’ve got yourself a hole in the wall? No worries, shove some corks in it! What hole?

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They should probably rename their restaurant ‘al dente AF’ because that’s exactly what this carbonara was. So good.

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Seafoody, tomatoey risotto!

Meanwhile, on the (narrow) streets of Sharosugil:

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Have you been to this area of Seoul? Which restaurants should we try next? Have the best day!

The January Newsletter

Good evening, Loyal Fan of my blog! I have decided to draw a visual, diary entry-style comic with a few of my drawings and photos from the month of January. I’m going to be doing this each month so I can have a nice little calendar of memories from ‘the year I moved to Seoul’. Who knows, maybe I’ll make them into a little zine at the end of the year? Wouldn’t that be crazy? Yes! Download the interactive PDF of my January Newsletter here and stick next to your office water cooler.

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Thank you for reading! I hope to see you next month!